Hostages who had been held by the Islamic State in Iraq for more than three months were released Saturday morning and brought to Turkey, said Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.
The 49 hostages, 46 of whom were Turkish, three of whom were other nationalities, included diplomats, consular officials and their families. They were captured in Mosul by the Al Qaeda breakaway group in June, when the militants seized control of the northern Iraqi city.
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An earlier version of this post said all 49 hostages were Turkish. Forty-six of them are Turkish; three are other nationalities.
“They came to Turkey at 5 a.m. in the morning. We followed the developments closely all night,” said Davutoglu, according to the official Anadolu news agency. “This happy development prepared us for a beautiful morning.”
It is not yet clear how this could affect Turkey’s potential involvement in a U.S.-led campaign to degrade and defeat the Islamic State, which has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria. Previous attempts by the Obama administration to persuade the Turkish government to join what U.S. officials say will be a coalition of more than 40 countries have been unsuccessful. Those attempts included a visit by Secretary of State John F. Kerry last week.
If Turkey joins the coalition, U.S. fighter jets, which have launched airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq, could take off from an air base in southern Turkey, a NATO ally.
In addition to the hostages, the Islamic State controls large parts of northern Syria along the Turkish border and in the past the militants have threatened to attack Turkey if it took military action against them.
“Our hands are tied because of the hostages,” a Turkish official had earlier told the Agence France-Presse news agency. Turkey “will not be involved in any armed operation but will entirely concentrate on humanitarian operations.”
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